Automated Pallet Handling, Sorting Systems Are Making More Sense
Pallet manufacturing and pallet recycling businesses are increasingly studying the options available from machinery suppliers to automate their operations; round-up of automated pallet sorting and handling systems.
By Staff Writer
Date Posted: 4/1/2000
Pallet manufacturing and pallet recycling businesses are increasingly studying the options available from machinery suppliers to automate their operations.
Automation has become a hot topic among many companies in part due to the acute labor shortage. With the nation experiencing record low unemployment levels, labor is at a premium. Fast-food restaurants and other businesses that typically pay minimum or low wages have been forced to pay higher wages in order to attract workers.
The tightness of the labor market is exacerbated in industries like pallet recycling because of its labor-intensive nature and because some workers are not willing to perform the arduous tasks associated with repairing pallets. Pallet companies are faced with competing for labor against other businesses that are paying top dollar for wages and likely can offer working conditions that are considerably less strenuous.
Of course, there are other reasons to consider machinery and equipment that enables a company to automate its operations. Besides reducing labor costs, automated machinery and systems can increase production significantly. Machines also make work easier for employees, increasing their personal productivity, reducing injuries and insurance claims for injuries associated with heavy lifting, reaching, and so on.
Automated pallet sorting and handling systems may be particularly suited for pallet recycling operations, especially those with considerable volume. Pallet recyclers must handle, move, repair, sort and stack significant quantities of pallets on a daily basis.
A number of pallet industry suppliers offer automated pallet sorting and handling systems. We identified companies that manufacture or supply this kind of machinery and equipment and invited them to submit information and photographs about their products. The information follows from the companies that responded. Suppliers are listed in alphabetical order.
Automated Machine Systems
Automated Machine Systems offers pallet dispensers, stackers, de-stackers, tippers, flippers, and pallet prepping equipment, such as lead board removers, platers, and an extensive line of conveyors for full turn-key systems.
AMS specializes in working with customers to help them design sorting and repair lines according to their specific needs and integrating new or existing equipment. Its fully automated repair lines are designed to handle both small and large volumes of pallets.
An AMS line has a de-stacker or tipper that dispenses pallets onto a conveyor for sorting and inspection; ready-to-go pallets are routed to a stacker and pallets needing repairs are routed to a prep station with lead board removers. After damaged boards have been removed, the pallet goes to assembly line repair stations. The first station makes repairs to the bottom deck boards and stringers. The pallet is turned over by an automated flipper and sent to the next station to replace missing to deck boards. The finished pallet is then graded to quality or size and then sent to a stacking system with a high-speed automated transfer conveyor.
AMS also supplies customized pallet transfer, palletizing, and pallet painting systems. Its Palcoat automated pallet painting system can paint from 500 to 4,500 pallets in an eight-hour shift.
Bronco Pallet Systems Inc.
Bronco Pallet Systems manufactures the 2001 Pallet Assembly Machine, custom pallet assembly machines, pallet sackers, and repair and assembly lines. The company provides consulting services, delivers and installs machinery and systems, and also will provide training on-site. Bronco serves both well established pallet businesses and new companies.
Repair-assembly lines are designed to meet a company’s specific production needs and space requirements. Components include assembly tables, notchers, repair tables with lead board removers, roller conveyors, platers, stackers, and dismantlers arranged around a slider bed conveyor system with a heavy-duty belt, and a minimum of a 5 hp motor. These systems provide efficient handling of various size materials and pallets and allow sorting by size and grade.
The Bronco staff has combined experience in the pallet industry of more than 67 years, and they have designed and set up over 100 pallet shops in North America. Bronco personnel have been speakers at conferences of the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association and the Canadian Wood Pallet and Container Association and have contributed articles to Pallet Enterprise and other publications.
Bronco recently installed a slide bed repair line at Mangold Transport Co. in Rochester, N.Y. The line consisted of six lead board removers, three Bronco model 100 stackers with roll-outs and 40 feet of conveyor line. The new Bronco line was credited with increasing daily production by 33%.
Industrial Resources manufactures pallet repair, sorting and handling equipment. It manufactures integrated pallet maintenance systems for high-volume applications, including many customers that are end users of pallets. Industrial Resources also manufactures a growing line of individual process and handling machines for traditional pallet recyclers.
Some of its products include a wide range of various types of conveyors, pallet transfers, dispensers, and accumulators, seven models of stackers, rotary knife and bandsaw dismantlers, lead board removers, and platers. It also offers tipper-accumulator infeed systems, inspection and rotating machines, overhead handling systems, repair benches, wood supply carts and racks. Industrial Resources also supplies pallet painting systems, pallet and container washing systems, production and inventory tracking software, and more.
Industrial Resources provides engineering and management consulting services in conjunction with equipment sales. Consulting services include studying existing production methods, conducting time studies of current processes, matching process machine capacities with product mix and volume, cost analysis of new equipment, plant inspections and layout engineering. Its staff has more than 50 years of combined engineering experience in machine design.
Industrial Resources recently installed a five-man pallet repair system for a customer in Michigan that reduced labor and forklift usage by 50%. The system increased plant capacity by 50% while reducing floor space required for operations by half. It achieved a 100% payback within 11 months.
Machine Specialists Inc.
MSI supplies pallet repair and sorting equipment. The company’s products include lead board removers, pallet dispensers, inspection tables, pallet stackers, conveyors, pallet accumulators, transfers and flippers.
MSI supplies complete pallet sorting systems and automated sort and repair systems. Its Express Sort System can sort over 5,000 pallets per shift with one operator, depending on the model. The MSI Automated Sort and Repair System is based on the company’s ‘nail-on-the-fly’ philosophy. Pallets are dispensed to an inspector who sorts them according to four categories. Pallets to be repaired go to a prep station and Deckmasters are used for removing lead boards and nail stubble. The next stage is a station to repair bottom deck boards and stringers. The pallet then goes to a flipper and is turned over and dispensed to another station that makes repairs to the top deck boards and grades it to a stacker. Pallet flow through is highly controlled with grading podiums, programmable logic controllers, photoelectric eyes, and pallet stops.
MSI, with 30 years combined experience in the pallet recycling industry, offers both remote and on-site consulting and analysis of existing pallet sorting and recycling operations. It also will provide free computer-assisted design of plant layouts.
MSI recently installed a complete Automated Sort and Repair System for a customer in the Midwest that was designed to produce 1,500 pallets daily. The system increased production 46% while reducing labor costs by 15%, and pallet quality also improved.
Pallet Repair Systems Inc.
Pallet Repair Systems supplies pallet handling and sorting machines as well as a complete line of pallet repair and recycling equipment and supplies.
The company offers fully automatic pallet stackers; its workstation stackers are smaller, less expensive models designed for one to four man work cells for pallet manufacturing or repair while its production stackers are a heavy-duty design, high-speed, adjustable machines for high-volume pallet operations. Fully automatic pallet dispensers-stackers are combination units that can either dispense or stack and can handle pallets, skids and collapsible containers. PRS offers two models of stack tippers that are used primarily for dispensing broken and miscellaneous size pallets; they are fully indexing and are available in either manual or automatic index. Fully automatic in-line turners feature a programmable logic control operation with live in-feed and out-feed for unattended in-line turnover of many types of pallets or skids. PRS also manufactures and distributes a wide range of material handling systems, including belt and roller conveyors, 90-degree transfer systems, and ball transfer tables for 360-degree inspection.
The PRS line of pallet repair and recycling equipment includes dismantling machines, deck board removers, plating machines and station platers, reclaim saws, stringer splicers, unstubbers and stringer sizers.
PRS provides custom system design, machine development, on-site installation, training, and service.
With over 35 years of pallet industry experience, PRS has served pallet companies and pallet users world-wide. Customers include a wide range of companies and industries, including start-up pallet shops to Fortune 500 businesses.
Pallet Systems Manufacturing Inc.
Pallet Systems Manufacturing supplies pallet stackers, pallet dispensers, the RotoShear disassembler, conveyors, end trim saws, chop saws, notchers for recycled stringers, and pallet platers. The company also provides design and layout assistance.
Pallet Systems Manufacturing has supplied pallet recycling equipment since 1985 and previously its staff was involved in pallet repair and recycling business.
RIPJAK Pallet Systems & Tools
RIPJAK has designed and manufactured pallet recycling machinery and tools for the pallet repair industry since 1974.
The company offers 14 different pallet dismantlers, automatic nail-nub presses, solid-arm plating machines, lead board repair stations with overhead gun mounts, sorting turntables, a circular-cutter, full-powered sharpener, a hand-held mini plater-splicer, and a complete pack of patented RIPJAK hand tools.
The RIPJAK patented Over’n’Under top and bottom cutter head has been retrofitted to competitive brands of pallet dismantlers as well as installed on do-it-yourself kit and home-made machines. The heavy-duty cutter head has also been the main component for most RIPJAK dismantlers made since 1985.
The RIPJAK Total Dismantler has three Over’n’Under cutter heads mounted on a patented T-Bar tilting lock-mount. The company’s Half-Pallet Dismantler features three adjustable-post cutter mounts that shear all bottom deck board nails with each machine stroke; one model features a self-feeding tip-stacker that drops one pallet at a time from full loads of 25 to 30 pallets.
RIPJAK is establishing independent distributors that are authorized to fabricate authentic RIPJAK machine frames from detailed drawings provided by RIPJAK. Patented cutter heads and major components are supplied to each distributor and installed on the finished product. This approach allows the company to reduce shipping costs substantially because transportation costs are limited only to main components, not complete machines.
The company welcomes distributor inquiries.
SMETCO has been manufacturing pallet handling systems and pallet machinery for over 30 years.
The company offers plant layout and design consulting services in order to help recyclers decide how to automate and to maximize the return on investment.
SMETCO systems and machinery are designed to save pallet businesses money and time by reducing labor and worker
SMETCO manufactures high-speed pallet sorting systems, pallet repair systems, cleaning systems, pallet stackers, pallet dispensers, platers, band saw dismantlers, pallet repair tools, and scissor lifts.
Trace Equipment Corporation
Trace Equipment provides anything from a single machine to complete plant lay-outs. The company will provide on-site consulting or arrange visits to other plants.
Trace Equipment offers a repair bar to a three work station stacker. It works with pallet companies of all levels. It will help customers to integrate conveyors, sorters, and stackers.
Owner Mona Tracy has more than 20 years of experience in pallet machinery sales and service. She has sold machinery from well established suppliers and is knowledgeable of their equipment.
Trace Equipment recently provided a complete plant lay-out and machinery line to a customer following a fire. The lay-out of machines running in tandem reduced the labor and space required, and Trace Equipment’s quick response enabled the company to continue supplying pallets to customers with little down time.
VF Automation designs, manufactures and installs a variety of material handling systems for the pallet recycling industry.
Turn-key systems are comprised of integrated machinery, starting with sortation, complete work stations, paint lines including accumulation, indexing, conveyors, paint booths, drying tunnel, stencil unit, and high-speed dispensing and stacking.
All VF Automation equipment features safety interlocks, programmable logic controls and safety guarding.
VF Automation specializes in customized equipment applications and also installs all electronic sensing and recording devices to track pallet component movements and repair.
VF Automation warrantees systems for one year and also offers service contracts.
Willow Creek Manufacturing
Willow Creek offers several machines and types of equipment for handling pallets as well as notching machines for individual stringers or finished pallets, and end trim and cut-off saws.
The company supplies a pallet nailing table that rotates so workers do not have to bend over. The unit has a swing arm to hold the nailing tool and ‘fingers’ to locate the deck boards.
Willow Creek’s pallet stacker is air over hydraulic and operates entirely by air. The stacker may be used separately or put behind the nailing table or a double-head notcher. It also may be combined with conveyor tables and used for sorting pallets.
The company also supplies rollers and conveyors.
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